One of the biggest problems of telecommuting is the isolation.
Work is a framework for a large part of our lives, so it’s only natural that it forms a part of our daily social fabric.
The isolation of telecommuting is often seen as a problem of the individual. The solutions involve providing the individual some feeling of contact during the work day, often by way of a co-working location or shared office space…with members of other teams.
But isolation is a problem for the team, not just the individuals. Social interactions build trust, understanding, and resiliency that help a team function better.
There are chat and teleconferencing applications that work great for basic work communication. But these lack most of the hooks for the social interactions you get by working in the same space.
So you have to create them.
When Coach.me went completely virtual in April, we knew we wanted to keep our social fabric active. We decided to have a video stand-up every morning. A daily video call like that is a great way to touch base regularly.
But then someone — probably Alicia — had the brilliant idea of extending one of our weekly meeting tactics to our daily standup.
In our weekly product meetings (held in person at the office we used to occupy), we used our round robin strategy of asking a simple question to get each person to speak out loud right at the beginning of the meeting.
Here’s how we describe this tactic in our book, Meeting Mastery:
People who speak early in a meeting tend to speak up later. If you have people who tend to be reticent, try having a Round Robin of something easy and social at the beginning of the meeting so everyone speaks early.
In the product meeting, our question was simply, “What was a highlight of your weekend?”
The Daily Question
We extended this tactic to our daily stand-ups by starting each morning with a “Question of the day”. We have a regular rotation to take turns answering the question of the day (and we still start Monday’s with “what was a highlight of your weekend?)
It quickly became obvious that this was a tactic we wanted to keep. It was FUN! Fun to come up with an interesting question, fun to think of an answer, and fun to get to know our co-workers on a deeper level. We enjoyed expressing ourselves, having philosophical debates, and gaining new respect for the life experiences of our teammates.
Some examples of our “Question of the Day” include:
- When did you feel like you were in the most danger?
- What got you to where you are today, but is now holding you back?
- What book did you read recently that you recommend?
- What’s your favorite movie/book/TV show/hike?
- What’s been in your Netflix (or similar) queue the longest that you still intend to watch?
- What’s the weirdest thing in your fridge?
- What’s the coldest/hottest temperature you’ve experienced?
- What are three other places you would live?
- What is a new hobby you started doing?
- What is your go-to thing to cook?
- What is your favorite food from childhood?
- What superstition/weird thing do you believe in?
- What is your ideal day?
- What new bit of slang have you learned recently?
- How has your sense of adventure changed as you’ve gotten older?
- What do you wish you could go back and tell yourself as a child?
As you can imagine, we learn quite a bit about each other in the course of answering these questions!
My experience is that I feel more bonded to my teammates. (Before we went to a completely telecommuting team, I was a telecommuter who came into the office once a week or so, so I probably benefit even more than the others.)
If you work with a telecommuting team, you probably lack some of the opportunities for social bonding that can make the team function better — and make it more enjoyable to work together. Try using the “Question of the Day” for any small remote team, or maybe even a small team working together in the same office.
By the way, we thought we’d start sharing our “Question of the Day” on Facebook and see how our larger community might like it. Follow us at https://www.facebook.com/coachdotme to see upcoming daily questions. We’d love to see your answers!